Poland’s ambassador to the UK has urged the hundreds of thousands of Poles living in Britain to “seriously consider” leaving the UK after Brexit.
In an open letter to Poles in the UK, Arkady Regocki warned that many of his compatriots had not yet applied for settled status, which grants EU nationals permanent residence.
Regocki revealed that an “alarmingly low” number of the more than 800,000 Poles living and working in the UK have so far applied to stay after it leaves the European Union.
“To date, around 27% of Poles living in the British Isles have applied for settled status,” he wrote. “This is an alarmingly low level, meaning that thousands of Polish citizens may be exposed to complications.”
“With the dynamically developing situation regarding United Kingdom’s exit from the EU … I would like to draw your attention to the need to submit such an application if you want to stay in the UK after Brexit,” he wrote.
About 832,000 people born in Poland were living in the UK in 2018, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Since March, EU nationals living in the UK have been able to apply to the Home Office for settled status to establish their permanent right to live in the UK.
In his first speech in the House of Commons as prime minister, Boris Johnson said applicants could expect “absolute certainty for the right to live and remain” in the UK.
But figures released in July revealed that 42% of applicants were being granted pre-settled status, rather than settled status, which would make their future more precarious.
The latest Home Office figures revealed that more than 1.5 million people had applied to the EU Settlement Scheme and, up to the end of August, 1.1 million applicants had been “granted status.”
The highest number of applications in August came from Polish nationals, with over 60,000 applications submitted – more than double the number received in July – according to the Home Office.
In his open letter, Regocki – Warsaw’s representative in London since 2016 – added: “I also encourage you to seriously consider the possibility of returning to Poland and to familiarize yourself with the information available … on social benefits in Poland, finding employment and finding places in schools for children.”
“The rapidly growing economy of our country creates more and more opportunities for citizens for development and having good living conditions in the country,” he wrote.
In an attempt to stop the brain drain that Poland has experienced since it joined the EU 15 years ago, an exodus that has had a negative impact on the country’s economy, its government recently scrapped income tax for roughly 2 million young workers.
The tax exemption was just one of many welfare handouts announced by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party ahead of May’s European elections.
The ambassador said he “regrets” the UK’s departure from the EU, which is currently scheduled for October 31, but regarded it as an “opportunity to strengthen the bond between our two countries.”